Friday, January 9, 2009

Sun, fun and the new year has begun

We're back from holiday. Actually two holidays that will be handled in two separate posts. Up first, the Canary Islands. We left Göteborg on December 23rd and after a night's stay in Frankfurt (damn you Orbitz!) we headed for Tenerife on Christmas Eve. Spent the night in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Quaint city. Absolutely shut down on Christmas Eve. But, that didn't stop us from walking about and enjoying the festive holiday decorations. Note: The images below link to my Picasa photo album with all trip photos.

The next day we headed South down the western coast of Tenerife. We stopped at a couple of towns including Puerto de la Cruz. Saw the lighthouse at Punta de Teno. And drove along some pretty steep and twisting roads before arriving in Playa de las Américas. Now, Playa de las Américas is a true resort town (for better or worse) that seems to cater predominantly to Brits. Every restaurant served an English breakfast (lots of beans and sausage). There were more English pubs than in SoHo. And some grocery stores even advertised "we sell English food." Cause who would want to eat paella all the time? Um.....I would. But, at the end of the day, you could always count on a great sunset and cool drink to refocus attention on where you were...

The next day, we headed up. Not just North, but up. To El Teide. The highest point in Spain (of which the Canary Islands is a part) and the Atlantic Ocean at 3718 meters. We waited over 2 hours for the gondola cables to be cleared of ice before we were allowed to head up. Unfortunately we didn't have time to get a pass that would allow us to climb to the summit and inside the crater, but we made due at 3600 meters just below the top. And we were rewarded with awesome views of the surrounding volcanic landscape, nearby islands, and a winter wonderland.

The next day we headed by ferry to the nearby island of La Gomera. We stayed two nights in San Sebastián de la Gomera. La Gomera is a small island that has a large park (Parque Nacional de Garajonay) in the center and coastal towns and beaches at the peripheries. We toured the entire island the first day. Did I mention how steep the roads were? Very. Scary. On the way back, [I made] TJ pose for this photo.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon in Playa de Santiago. At a brightly colored beach cafe, we enjoyed beer, some fried calamari, and a lot of sun. Then back to San Sebastián de la Gomera for evening sangria and dinner. San Sebastián is small but vibrant. The building facades provided a great subject for my photography. The next day, we headed back through the cold, foggy mountains to the warmth of Valle Gran Rey. This little beach and port enclave is well-known by German tourists. The highlight of our trip. Then back to San Sebastián de la Gomera for evening sangria and paella. The paella took 40 minutes to make but was well worth the wait. The wait included a few Dorada cervezas and some almogrote spread made with goat cheese and mojo sauce.

And, then, all too quickly, back to Playa de las Américas on Tenerife. There, we met up with Jenn and Bridget. TJ and Jenn went to Kellogg together. We celebrated TJ's (43rd) birthday. I opted for a variety of treats instead of a cake. The cakes I looked at were the size (and shape) of a log. Still, the four of us did some damage on what we had.

TJ, Jenn and Bridget stayed out until 3am both of our final 2 nights in Playa de las Américas. I was the old man who goes to bed [relatively] early. I did, however, go the distance on New Year's Eve.

We drove back to Santa Cruz de Tenerife. And, as was the case on Christmas Eve, most restuarants were not serving dinner in preparation for the evening's festivities. Luckily, we found a cafe off the main square where we were able to sample Canary Island cuisine. Bars were not opening until AFTER midnight. So, we walked around town for a bit. This small park with tiles benches afforded a nice backdrop for a group photo.

Then, to the hotel to have some cocktails, count down to the new year, eat our 12 grapes by the 12th strike of the clock at midnight, and toast with champagne. And into the streets we went. There was a street with a live band and a group of trendy bars/cafes. We stayed there until the wee hours. The locals, especially, the young, were dressed in their finest suits and dresses. We didn't mind slumming it a bit. A great way to end our winter holiday. You can find all the photos from our Canary Islands trip here.

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